Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Return of Hyperion

Read "The Return of Hyperion" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is another case where Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) revised the wording of a poem between its original appearance in The Star-Treader and Other Poems (1912) and an appearance many decades later in his Selected Poems (1971).  However, the changes do not alter the meaning of the poem, so I'll focus on the version available at The Eldritch Dark, which matches what was published in Selected Poems.

This is the second poem by CAS that I've read which references the Succession Myth from Greek mythology, more specifically the Titanomachy (the first such poem was "Saturn").  And of course the title "The Return of Hyperion" directly recalls the unfinished poem "Hyperion" by John Keats.

The two stanzas of "The Return of Hyperion" paint a very different emotional picture, with the darkness of the opening exemplified by these lines:

Alike on mountain and plain
The night is as some iron dream
That closes the soul in a crypt of dread,
Apart from touch or sense of earth,
As in the space of eternity.

Hyperion himself is introduced in the second stanza, and his emergence leads to a very different feeling:

The sentinel stars
Are dead with overpotent flame,
And in their place Hyperion stands.
The night is loosened from the land
As a dream from the mind of the dreamer;
A great wind blows across the dawn,
Like the wind of the movement of the world.

The association of Hyperion with the arrival of sunlight would seem to reference his role as the father of Helios, the Greek god of the sun.

While this poem lacks the impressive narrative drive of the related poem "Saturn", it marks an interesting return to the theme of the Titanomachy, which CAS also addressed in the later poem "The Titans in Tartarus".  I'm looking forward to reading that poem in a few weeks and seeing how the poet completes this trilogy.

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